As Covid-19 pandemic is forcing changes into every aspect of human life, people need to bring changes in the way of their thinking. Mohammad Saiful Islam interviewed Sarah Kamal, the national president of Junior Chamber International (JCI) Bangladesh, to know about Covid-19 crisis, youth's role, skill development and leadership.
Before taking the role of president, Sarah Kamal worked as the national executive vice president and secretary general for JCI Bangladesh. She has experience of being an international trainer of JCI for India, Japan, Canada and some other countries. She also performed duties as director of Kamal Associates and trustee board member for School of Hope.
JCI is global youth organisation that operates in 124 countries around the world. The organisation aims at development of youths aged 18 to 40 years.
Question (Q): As corona pandemic has rattled the economy all over the world, each and every institute and organisation is suffering. Does leadership become a challenge during such dire situation?
Answer (A): Combination of transparency, prudence, empathy, timing and courage is very important when you are in a leadership role-- especially in a crisis situation like this. When you are in a leadership role, you have to deal with people from various background. If you are secretive, narcissistic and tend to make impulsive decision, it might create differences within the organisation. Remember, you cannot make everyone happy at the same time. When you are chosen to lead an organisation, your priority should be the betterment of the organisation. As for the pandemic that we are facing right now, it does make leadership challenging in terms of how an organisation would go forward with its activities for the year and how it would keep its people engaged and motivated.
Q: As you work with the youth directly, what do you think could be the youth's role in ascending from the crisis?
A: Having the opportunity to work for JCI with the youth for the past eight years, I have seen how youths of Bangladesh like to take responsibilities on their shoulders in times of crisis, be it Rana Plaza or this current pandemic. As for the youth's role in ascending from the crisis, I would say, they need to use technology like virtual classroom, innovative IOT solutions, develop skills by keeping in mind the 4IR, update and modernise themselves, enhance quality to face future challenges and bring innovative approaches in business to survive in crisis situations.
Q: As you are aware of the situation already, economy is not healthy right now and unemployment could be unprecedented. What is your advice for the youth who could be direct victims of the situation?
A: To fight unemployment, youths must have a greater say in the policies that directly affect them. They need to be active participants in every sector, be it in food crisis, mobilising farmers, taking business virtual, harnessing agricultural data, workforce training, healthcare support, turning waste materials into different products, making masks and also, use of social media in the positive way.
Q: Policy makers are claiming that new investment for youths are increasing and this has been possible for political stability in the country. Do you agree with that?
A: If you see one or two generation back, youths wanted to become doctors, engineers or government employees. But this mentality has changed with time. Government has constantly encouraged entrepreneurship and promoted trainings and system that support new entrepreneurs. Bangladesh was lagging behind in SME development a few years back. But today, new initiatives are enabling entrepreneurships through various accelerator/incubator programmes and it has been realised that entrepreneurship is the gateway to sustainability. It is becoming increasingly important as it creates positive impact on the locality and changes the lives of the people. Nowadays while doing business, policies force the entity to care about people and planet before profit. So I agree that political stability in the country does play a vital role in this.
Q: Let's jump onto JCI. No doubt, post-Covid world will witness huge change. There will be 'new normal'. Do you think JCI could be make the same impact on that new normal, as it is making now?
A: To be honest, we don't know yet what the new normal is. But it's a fact that things will not be the same. As for JCI being a youth driven organisation, I think the capability to adapt to changes is something we are very good at. Yes, it's difficult, but not impossible. If you have the passion to do something and bring a positive change, you will do it regardless of the situation. As for the impact, I think it's rather making better impact now. Even in this crisis situation, JCI members showed their passion and dedication by taking precautionary measures and going out there to help the people in need.
Q: As the president of JCI Bangladesh, what's your vision for the organisation's future development?
A: As the president of JCI Bangladesh, my vision is to develop leaders for a changing world. We will focus on nurturing our members to make them stakeholders in every sectors of the society. Their development is my first and upmost priority.
Q: Leadership is not an easy thing. As a leader yourself, what would you like to tell the future leaders?
A: Leaders have the power to empower others to bring out the best in them. So, be passionate about what you do, set out to make a difference. It's not about the position you hold, because nothing is permanent. So, have a goal and motivate your team to achieve the goal together. Respect everyone, be humble and be responsible for your actions.
The interviewer is pursuing a master’s in Department of Mass Communication and Journalism. He can be reached at